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Librarian Blog

Bury that smile!

It's no laughing matter, this thing that is happening to clowns.
This thing is "It." "It" is a  movie about clowns based on a novel by Stephen King, so you know that said clowns are not the heroes.
Indeed, they are so loathsome that real clowns, whatever that means, are angry about the depictions of them as scary.
Are clowns really scary?
Joe Queenan, writing in The Wall Street Journal, that answering this question poses the old conundrum: Which came first, the scary clown or the fear of the clown?
I decided to ask our resident clown expert, Emily McDonald, who is our children's librarian.
She said we had Bonzo The Clown as a performer last summer, and Silly Sparkles this summer.
Emily went with Silly this year because "she was less creepy."
But, she said, children don't find clowns scary at all.
Their parents do.
I guess they'll be happy to submit to being frightened when they pay $10 or $12 to see Stephen King's animation of their fears.

Get outta here

Okay, so I missed it.
Banned Books Week was last week, but it's never too late to celebrate, is it?
Actually, we probably should have a Banned Books Decade or maybe a Banned Books Year. That's how much energy gets expended when people get riled up about a book or two.
It's not a book or two, to be accurate. Since 1982, 11,300 books have been challenged, according to the American Library Association. Why, it seems like only yesterday when the public was up in arms over "Lolita." But it was really 60 years ago.
And it's been about that long since Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" shocked American readers.
And it's been just 35 years since the Supreme Court spoke to the issue of school boards banning books. You may not recall the case, but the court found that "a school board's discretionary power is secondary to the First Amendment and the board could not ban books from its library simply because its members disagree with the content.
Since there are a lot of new books out every year, there are a lot of new ones to hate.
Some of the same old ones are banned, though. They often include "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian" of even "Huckleberry Finn."
So many books, so little time!

It's about time

Maybe there's time for this new initiative by the Knight Foundation to work before our democracy implodes from the weight of misinformation and lies.
The foundation announced this week a partnership with a number of entities, the most prominent being the New York Public Library, to foster trust in media in this country.
Millions of dollars are being poured into the new plan, which will include media institutions at all levels and of all sizes and many others with a stake in The Truth.
It's about time, I must say. This country is descending into the depths of a modern-day Babel, but in our time this Babel has a population that's completely armed and uniformly dangerous because of a rise in illiteracy and willful ignorance, not to mention a willingness to believe any propaganda promulgated by anyone with a nasty temper and no brains.
Something needs to happen to save us from ourselves. This Knight initiative is a great start.
One of the nation's former media giants, E.W. Scripps, said of his newspapers, If we give the people light, they will find the way. It's probably no longer good enough to shine a light in the darkness and hope people will grope their way to a door or window. Somebody's gotta fix the lightbulb.

Free speech?

It's not just adults who seem to be confused about what constitutes speech that is protected by the Constitution.
Students are, too.
The Brookings Institution just released results of a survey on the subject, finding that most students don't know what kind of speech the government cannot control.
Chances are good they aren't even familiar with the idea that just because you don't like what somebody says you don't really have a right to shut them down.
The country was built on the clash of ideas, even bad ones.
Since so few adults seem to understand that, it's not hard to believe their kids don't.
And so we have a death spiral in the making?

A day for a stamp

Among the hundreds of books my wife and I read to our children when they were very young was "The Snow Day" by Ezra Keats.
It was a cute book, and it was about snow, one of my girls' favorite things where we lived up there in the Texas Panhandle.
A lot of folks must have loved that book as much as the girls did because this week the U.S. Postal Service is issuing four stamps featuring that very book. The stamps will be part of the postal service's Forever series.
This is not, of course, the first time a book has been featured on a postage stamp. James Hutchisson has a website at The Citadel that showcases hundreds of stamps over the years featuring famous authors like Shakespeare and C.S. Lewis, etc., and so on. Stamps about books issued in Great Britain are numerous, but there have also been book-themed stamps from Nicaragua and Antigua, to name just two other places.
For some interesting insight on these kinds of stamps, check out this website.
The announcement about "The Snowy Day" was kind of a surprise to me even though it seems to make historical sense, given the fact it was published in 1962.
It surprised me because until I read about this new stamp I didn't realize the little boy in the book was black.
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